NATIVE IN CHARGE OF
Book-lovers and literary aficionado’s rejoice!
Our beautiful library is once again looked after by a Monroe native.
On a recent trip to town I stopped in the library to ask a couple of
questions and met the new manager, Blake Peters, and what an exciting
conversation we had. Blake has not been at the helm of the library long but in a
very short time he has made it a priority to know what books and categories are
on the shelves and what is in each and every drawer as well as knowing
everything in the Heritage Room which pertains to history and genealogy; the
sign of a true bibliophile!
Just from the conversations we exchanged it is easy to see the passion
Blake has for any and all things literary; it radiates from him like words
flying off a page and especially when he speaks about Shakespeare, Shelley and
Keats, three of his favorite authors.
“I grew up on the family farm in Gratis and have lived in Walton County
most of my life. Most of my family attended the Walton County public schools all
the way through high school. After high school I went to the University of
Georgia where I graduated with an ABJ in Journalism from the Grady College of
Journalism and Mass Communication.
I spent a short time after graduating in Destin, Florida working as a
photographer and then moved back to Georgia where I taught at Georgia Perimeter
College. When an offer came along from the Uncle Remus Regional Library System
to manage the Monroe Library, how could I refuse?
I cannot tell you how much it means to look after the library I grew up
Blake’s enthusiasm for his job is certainly contagious.
I told him about how similar our lives were, how they were connected via
the Monroe Library and how my Aunt Ruby Landers served in the position he had
back in the 1950’s when it was in the old city hall location where I was first
introduced to books, literature and the history of Monroe as captured in the
back issues of the Walton Tribune.
Standing in the Heritage Room looking at the portrait of the late Anita
Butts Sams, who gave Walton County its true history while sharing our stories of
growing up in the library, Blake continued: “I definitely spent a lot of time
in the library growing up.
My mother and grandmother brought me here all the time and in a very real
sense my love of reading was born in the library. I was taught to read from
books checked out from here and every time we came to town I insisted we stop by
I discovered favorite authors like Shakespeare, Shelley and Keats from
the books I read here.
Many of the books I read growing up are still on shelves in the building;
the first book of Shakespeare’s plays I checked out as a student at Carver
Middle School is actually sitting on my desk right now!
This library really did change my life!
I am very interested in the history of this library and want to preserve
as much of it as I can.”
his interest in wanting to compile a history of the library for a true record of
our literary heritage reminded me of a program on the library I gave to the
Delphian Club in 2013.
My history of the library came from old issues of the Walton Tribune
along with my memories of the library as a child along with stories and
recollections from two friends, the late Mrs. Evelyn S. Martin, who was a
chairman of the library board and the late Edward L. Almand, Jr., one of the
organizing founders of the library.
I am adding my notes to this column in hopes Blake can add to where I
left off in bringing the story of the Monroe-Walton County Library current with
the possibility of having copies of it available for patrons of the library.
“History of the Monroe-Walton County Library: 1905-1990”
“Homes with books are homes with culture,” says an old proverb.
An example of this type of culture in Monroe in the early days goes back
to when the “Book Lovers Club” was organized in a member’s living room in
“Library Rooms” were opened in various members home during good
weather from 4:00 – 5:00 every Wednesday afternoon.
At the organizational meeting held in January, 1906, Mrs. Robert L.
Nowell, Sr., was elected president of the group; Miss Claire Felker,
vice-president, and Miss Josie Reed, secretary & treasurer.
Miss Lizzie Hammond and Miss Moina Michael served as librarians for the
Concerned over the fact the new public school system had no library, the
Book Lover’s Club was considering in late November transferring its collection
to the Church Street School where it might continue serving its own small
membership while at the same time forming a collection for the high school
A favorite quote about book-lovers from that period by John Aiken goes:
“The time to read is any time; no apparatus, no appointment of time or place
Another early book circulating unit found a home on a shelf in an uptown
store on the west side of Broad Street between Spring Street and West Highland
Mrs. Edwin P. Nowell, Jr., was active in organizing and promoting this
group in 1922, asking each member to provide a book for rotation.
Some of Monroe’s most prominent citizens were listed among the
membership including, Mrs. Earl Aycock, Mrs. Lewis Barrett, Mrs. C. R. Bradford,
Mrs. J.W. Butts, Mrs. Ed A. Caldwell, Mrs. W. H. Compton, Miss Mary Edwards,
Mrs. George W. Felker, Mrs. Harry Launius, Mrs. Paul Launius, Mrs. Lena Felker
Lewis, Mrs. Arthur Mobley, Mrs. Josiah Roy Nunnally, Harry Arnold, L. T.
Mayfield and Sid Wheeler.
James H. Billington, a book-lover born in 1929, wrote: “Libraries are
starting places for the adventure of learning that can aid whatever one’s
vocation and location in life. Reading is an adventure like that of discovery
itself. Libraries are our base camp.”
31st of 1936 saw the beginning of Monroe’s first public library at the local
high school with the school’s volumes forming the nucleus of the collection.
Miss Mary Nell Breedlove served as librarian with Miss Thelma Cates
serving as the school librarian.
When a massive fire destroyed this building including the accumulated
book collection in December of 1936, J. Roy Nunnally offered up free space for a
library in the Nunnally Building on the West side of Broad Street which met with
enthusiastic approval and appreciation to this civic leader.
The Monroe Women’s Club and other organizations joined forces and
offered a small collection of titles made available to the citizens.
For a short time these books were circulated on an “honor system”,
but so many volumes were lost or never returned that a borrower’s registry was
put into use in 1937.
October 25, 1938 marked a pivotal day for Monroe booklovers when a small
group of interested citizens met in the second floor quarters of the Nunnally
Building in an attempt to strengthen the fledgling library.
A small stove, heated with coal purchased by one of the individuals, took
the chill from the room. There were less than two dozen books on the shelves,
but this meeting began the reorganization of The Monroe Public Library, the
forerunner to the Monroe-Walton County Library.
Named to the first library board were: Mrs. W. O. Dean, Chairman; Edward
L. Almand, Jr., Mrs. Thomas R. Aycock, Mrs. James A. Clarke and L. D. Haskew.
A representative of the Works Progress Administration explained how aid
could be obtained through the organization to supplement local funds and it was
decided to keep this library separate from that of the school library.
Thanks to the help from the WPA, city and county funds and generous
donations from citizens across town and the dedication of the elected officials,
the library was able to extend its services on a county-wide basis.
Serving as library board chairmen after Mrs. Dean up to 1968 were: Mrs.
Thomas R. Aycock, Mrs. R. C. Martin, Mrs. R. L. Nowell, Jr., Mrs. Marvin
Sorrells and Mrs. Jimmy Milhous.
Librarians who kept watch over the books and collections while serving
the citizenry were: Miss Mary Chick, Mrs. Vera D. Moon, Mrs. B. R. Barrett, Miss
Mae Wooten, Miss Ruby Landers, Mrs. J. C. Knox, Mrs. John S. Dickinson, Mrs.
Robert Cousar and Mrs. Andy Watson.
The late Ed Almand, Jr. was the sole surviving member of the original
board, having served as treasurer for 34 years since the 1938 reorganizational
meeting and later served as chairman of the board of trustees for the Piedmont
Regional Library System for two years which later absorbed the Monroe Public
After stepping down as chairman, he served as trustee for the library
board for 23 years, one of the longest serving tenures of the organization.
In 1939 when the new Monroe City Hall was built, two rooms were provided
to house the library, which served the city adequately until August 25, 1958,
when the Memorial Library on Bold Springs Avenue became available.
This library was built and given to the high school in 1946 by Mr. &
Mrs. Harry B. Launius as a memorial to their son, Harry B. Launius, Jr., who
lost his life in the war and to honor all students of Monroe High School who
entered the armed services of our country during World War II, from 1941 to
A large bronze plaque hung in the entry hall of the library with the
names of all the boys from Monroe who entered the war. The Launius Memorial
Library served both the needs of the high school and the community.
With the opening of the new high school building on Bryant Road in 1958,
the school library moved into its new quarters leaving the Memorial Library as
the perfect home for the public library.
The Monroe-Walton County Library’s affiliation with the Piedmont
Regional Library in 1954 increased its scope and services, providing rural areas
of the state with books and services where none had been previously available.
Representatives on this library board from Monroe were: Ed Almand, Jr.,
Mrs. Annie B. Rockmore, Miss Mary Reed and John F. Hester.
The State Board of Education granted permission for funds to be made
available for the purchase of a bookmobile in 1955 which serviced the local
schools and rural areas where books were scarce.
When the bookmobile visited the local schools, classes were halted so
students could peruse the books in that old van, picking out titles of interest.
Other members of the Monroe community serving on the board through the
years were: Mrs. David Black, Mrs. W. H. Gleafke, Mrs. Glenn Pelham, Mrs. Tharpe
Sanders, Mrs. J. T. Byrd, Mrs. Charles Henson, Jr., Mrs. Bill Murray, Mrs.
Robert L. Sams, Mrs. E. T. Woodward, Mrs. R. L. Nowell, Jr., Mrs. Rice Green,
Mrs. Bob Tankersley, Mrs. Albert Spence, Mrs. Bobby Breedlove and Mrs. Jack
By 1968, the library’s shelves held 7,000 volumes and on November 6,
1972 the library moved into the newly renovated quarters of the old Monroe Post
Office building, just steps away from its former location in city hall.
Thanks to several large grants, a large red brick building was built on
West Spring Street which now serves the citizens of Monroe for their book needs.
At the time of the occupancy the book count on the shelves was reaching
towards 70,000 titles complete with shelves of current magazines.
Other amenities of this new building were meeting rooms, a children’s
area and the “jewel” of the library was the “Heritage Room”, a secure
environment which houses genealogical documents & papers, old issues of the
Walton Tribune on microfilm, maps, documents and other papers providing
historical and cultural content. Plaques from the old Monroe Public Library, the
Launius Memorial Library and other historical markers adorn the brick walls,
giving patrons a glimpse back in time to the library’s “younger days”.
During the late eighties or early nineties, the Piedmont Regional Library
was absorbed into the State of Georgia Public Library System and the
Monroe-Walton County Library became a part of The Uncle Remus Regional Library
System. This change brought about the advent of modern technology adding
computers and books on discs while still adhering to the basic reason of a
library, providing the Monroe community with good books.
With Blake Peters overseeing the day to day operations and appreciating
the heritage of an organization that has always been close to my heart, I know
the Monroe-Walton County Library will be in good hands for many years to come, I